Foliaki: intense and at full speed

Linebacker Lee Foliaki discusses his first year at Texas A&M after making the leap from JUCO. Foliaki played a key role on an Aggie team that garnered much national attention after an impressive turnaround season. No. 22 Texas A&M is preparing to take on the No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers in the SBC Cotton Bowl in Dallas on January 1, 2005.

What are your thoughts about playing in basically your own backyard in the Cotton Bowl?:

"I think it's going to be exciting. It's kind of going to be a homecoming for me. It's going to be good for all of us because we get to stay in Texas and play in front of a home crowd. I'll have a lot of family at the game."


In the late-80's and early, mid-90's, everyone called A&M ‘Linebacker U of the South' What does this program need to do to get back to that point?:

"We just need to keep practicing and preparing. I think Coach Torbush has got us going in the right way. We did pretty good this year and I think spring is going to help us out a lot. We're all going to be together and go through spring together, and I think it's going to help us out for next season."


What do you need to do in the offseason? Is it going to be beneficial for you to have a full year in the program?

"I think it is. I think spring will help out a lot. I'll feel more comfortable. This is for all of us so we can feed off each other during spring – knowing how each other plays, I think that will be big for us."


Did you feel like you needed to bulk up or be heavier when you came here, playing at a four-year university?

"I probably thought I needed to lose a little weight because I came in and was a little out of shape. I was heavy. I was the heaviest I've been since playing linebacker. I was about 247, now I'm about 235, 240."


How different is weight training here as compared to what you did at a junior college?

"It's way more intense up here. They work us out hard at the junior college level, but here it's more intense as far as running, stretching and lifting, all that stuff. It's tougher up here." "


Can you describe what it's like being a JUCO player coming into a big program and how complicated it is at first to make the switch?

"It's really tough at first. In JUCO we only had a few plays. Basically, you were just out there just running around just playing football. Here, the playbooks, they throw something new at you everyday. You've got to learn quick and just take it and run. There were more calls I had to make [at A&M]. I had to know what the D-line was doing. In my junior college, I was just running around and playing. It wasn't too complicated"


Do you remember the Utah and Wyoming game? Did you feel frustrated or confused out there going into the game?

"Going through camp, it was tough just because they threw me in there a lot and I just had to learn real fast. But at the same time, it seemed like when I got in the game, everything was moving slowly so I knew what was going on."


Is it kind of mind-boggling to you that you were in junior college last year and this year you're trying to tackle Jason White and Cedric Benson who are all up for the Heisman?

"I still have a hard time believing all the players I played. Going into each game, I'm like, ‘Man, I was just watching this guy last year,' and all these guys are fixing to get drafted. I'm still amazed each Saturday we go out there and play."


Did you see the Heisman ceremony last year when White won?

"Yeah. I go back to one play where I sacked him or whatever. I couldn't believe it. I was like, ‘Are you serious? That's Jason White.'"


Are you saying practice was harder than the actual games?

"Just considering the fact we're going against our offense—the speed and everything. When it carried over to the game, it just seemed like everything kind of slowed down and you could kind of see everything develop, and just be able to make plays well."


If that's the case, you're giving the coaches probably the biggest complement they can get. Because if practice is harder than the game – and I'm not saying you're wrong -- we wrote a lot about that two years ago when Fran first came, but we don't talk about it much anymore. But the practices here used to not be as intense. Is it culture shock?

"It was. Everything was at full speed. The water break is full speed [laughter]. I was like, ‘Man, could you slow down a little bit? I'm not used to all this!' Everything is intense and full speed. We do everything full speed, so I guess that carries over into the game."

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